Energy Secretary Chu Says Emission Reduction Targets Politically Hindered... So, Let's Allow More Coal Plants!

coal power plant photo

photo: Thomas via flickr.

In a bit of either brilliant coincidence or astute timing, considering that the Waxman-Markey climate change bill just passed in the Energy & Commerce Committee, BBC News has a new piece wherein Energy Secretary Stephen Chu talks about how US carbon emission reduction goals are being hindered by political opposition, and that compromises must be made. Unfortunately those compromises he's talking about are about giving in to polluters:If We Are Too Aggressive to Start, We Won't Get Anywhere
Chu opens by saying that he fears we are heading for a climate tipping point and that action must be taken quickly. But in order to take that quick action he sees the political reality dictating compromise:

"As someone very concerned about climate I want to be as aggressive as possible but I also want to get started. And if we say we want something much more aggressive on the early timescales that would draw considerable opposition and that would delay the process for several years."

The US energy secretary said that awareness of climate tipping points had increased greatly only in the past five years. He added: "But if I am going to say we need to do much, much better I am afraid the US won't get started."

Chu Proposes Allowing New Coal Power Plants Without CCS
Fair enough, but one of the compromises that Chu suggests making is approving new coal fired power plants even if they don't incorporate carbon capture and storage technology. (By the way, the UK just moved in the opposite direction on that one...stipulating that any new plants must have CCS.)

OK. (Deep breath.) And apologies to Prof Chu, who is beyond all question a most learned and esteemed man, but is he fracking crazy? The goal here is reduce carbon emissions and he says a willing compromise to get overall emission reduction targets passed (which are already well below what scientists saying are required to keep global temperature rise below 2°C, keep in mind) is to allow more electricity to come online from the singlemost polluting source of energy we have?!?

The Environmental Honeymoon is Clearly Over...
Before I go overboard on the punctuation, this is what Damon Moglen from Greenpeace USA (more soberly) says about this idea:

Obama has had something of a honeymoon with environmentalists.

But we are getting very concerned. Professor Chu is a good man and a good scientist, but the science on global warming is clear and he should be guided by the science not the politics.

It is out of the question that the US should agree new power stations burning coal - the dirtiest fuel. Our targets on emissions are too low anyway - and there is no way we will meet even those low targets if we allow more coal to be burned.

Professor Chu's comments on coal are contradictory and illogical. This administration should give him the head to develop the sort of energy policy he knows we really need.

Read all of Chu's comments (plus video): BBC News
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